24 August 2010

Outsourcing Disrespect

Every now and then I get an email from a pal in the mom-o-sphere that makes me want to throw up in my mouth a little.  Today was one such occasion.

A friend passed along a solicitation from a new-sounding company called Tomoson (not interested in linking) asking her to sign up at their website so she could receive free stuff to review on her blog.  To get the free swag -things like wigs, keychains and novelty sauce - she apparently would have to embed some html code in her blog so the company could monitor posts and let the client who makes the tchotchkes high-quality merchandise know what an awesome job they're doing, getting bloggers to write about them essentially for free.

I checked out their website and they had a section for "promoters" with a video that claimed they had "thousands of bloggers" (yeah, I'm calling bullshit on that) ready to opine on the awesomeness of keychains, and that these blog posts would create some kind of SEO juggernaut that would launch your hotsauce or branded nail file or whatever to the upper echelons of the google machine.    They've just created this automated system designed to capitalize on the credibility of human interaction that is peer review - and they've "streamlined" it by taking all the human interaction out of it.

I don't do a ton of consumer marketing, so I don't claim to be the nation's foremost expert, but I'll definitely put my professional reputation and my relationships in the mom-o-sphere against this company any day. (I noticed that the business owners don't put their names on the site.)   And I'm going to be straight - not only do I think this approach runs counter to everything I believe in professionally, I think doing what this company proposes actually does much more harm than good for clients.  I think the brands that use a service like this are being dismissive and disrespectful to bloggers, and will be getting absolutely useless metrics.

Here's the message a company is sending to bloggers by using this service.  Not only are they declining to engage directly with bloggers on a substantive level, not only are they fishing for free advertising, not only are they pawning off cheap crap, not only are they requiring people to “apply” for this cheap crap – they can’t even be bothered to do it themselves and instead outsource it on the cheap.

And before anyone says "well of course he's trashing them, he's a competitor" - not so.  In my business I sometimes hire a subcontractor to help with outreach.  But if I'm reaching out to moms, I tend to hire a mom.  If I'm reaching out to medical professionals, I hire a medical professional.  I work with people who have credibility in their own communities and I build non-transactional relationships.  This automated system is transactional by definition.  It's not even a full step removed from buying followers on Twitter.

And as I said, I don't do a lot of consumer marketing anyway.  I don't foresee developing a strategic communications campaign that asks bloggers to review the comfort of clear bra straps.

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